While Department of Game and Inland Fisheries’ biologists believe that Virginia’s wild turkey population is at record high levels, wild turkey populations can fluctuate considerably from year-to-year. As such, every August, many Department of Game and Inland Fisheries employees record observations of wild turkeys during their routine work travels.
Known as the annual “Brood Survey”, Department employees record the number of turkeys they see, paying attention to accurately count the number of young birds within broods. By August, young, recently hatched turkeys, called poults, are likely to survive until the fall and their presence or absence in the turkey population at this time of year provides biologists with important insight into future population trends.
Overall, the 2016 wild turkey brood survey revealed wild turkey numbers slightly below the long-term average on a statewide basis. However, production of young turkeys varied across the Commonwealth.
In the Northwest Mountain Region, observers reported very high numbers of broods and very high numbers of young birds within broods, the best of any in the state. This is encouraging news for the region because turkey densities are very low in many counties in Northwest Mountain Region.
Brood numbers were also high in the Tidewater region but the number of poults seen in broods was very low. In the balance of the state (North Piedmont, South Piedmont, and South Mountain), the numbers of broods seen was below average, furthermore, the number of young birds within broods was down.
Poor weather conditions involving extended periods of cooler, wet weather were observed throughout much of the brood season in 2016. The negative impacts of these conditions on poult survival appeared throughout most of the state this year. The turkey population influences from reproduction seemed almost appropriate this year as the Region with the lowest turkey population experienced the greatest recruitment, while the Region with the highest turkey population (Tidewater) experienced the lowest recruitment. Regardless, turkey enthusiasts will continue to enjoy turkey populations that are still at or near record levels for modern times in the Commonwealth.